Posts Tagged ‘How To’

It is now preserving season and approaching the end of the growing season where many crops and foraged foods can be preserved for the upcoming Winter months, here is a quick and simple recipe if you need to make pickling vinegar on an ASAP basis:

Make your own Spiced Pickling vinegar in 30 minutes

Home Made Spiced Pickling Vinegar

You Will Need:

  • A good glass Jar or Bottle, usually you should use a non-metallic lid as vinegar is corrosive,
  • Cider or Malt Vinegar (Cider being the healthier option),
  • 1 Tsp Peppercorns,
  • 1 Tsp Coriander Seeds,
  • Small Cinnamon Stick piece (2-3cm long),
  • 2 Cloves,
  • 1 Tsp Mustard Seeds,
  • Small Pot / Pan for boiling and simmering.

Method:

  • Measure the vinegar by pouring it into your storage jar / bottle to fill it up, once filled place it in the pot with the spices and bring to the boiling point,
  • Once boiling point is reached, bring the heat down and simmer as slightly as possible for 30 minutes – let it sit to cool down,
  • Pour the liquid through a sieve or similar filter into your storage jar or bottle, your vinegar is now ready to be used when you want to pickle any vegetables from your garden

For other preserves including Jams, Jellies, Chutneys, Compote, Soups, Pickling etc, Click Here

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Just the other day I was in a desperate need of any kind of container to plant some Sunchokes (aka Jerusalem Artichokes), Comfrey Bocking 14 and ‘Czar’ Runner Beans which I was ”gifting” to some relatives overseas. I had said that the plants will need some care until a root system was established because these plants are going from a Temperate Climate into the Tropics and luckily I happened upon these ready to be thrown away bags, from a recent clothing shopping spree.

Paper bags are ususally quite strong when supplied in Malls / Shops where the customer is expected to buy heavy loads, the best part is that I intend to merely submerge the plant with it’s paper ”pot” directly into the ground such as those common compostable / biodegradeable plant pots – completely eliminating the need for plastics and giving the plant and other organisms some additional nutrients!

Method:

Step 1: Take bag and cut vertically in half, you can pull out any handles / straps and re-use those later if you like

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Re-purposing a Bench Paper Bag into Two Plant Pots – Step 1

Step 2: Once cut, lay both pieces down on their thinner Vertical Sides as in the below photo, then deicde for yourself how large (wide at the base) you need your two pots so you can follow the follding lines and cutting lines in the diagram further below …

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Re-Purposing a Bench Paper Bag into Two Plant Pots – Step 2

Step 3: In the below diagram, the following notes are key to complete this project:

The RED Line is the base Horizontal folding line,
The two Orange Lines are the side Vertical folding lines
The two Dotted Green Lines are the only cuts you will need to make

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Once all folded and ready
, the final step is using a stapler to keep it together and perhaps to re-attach the handles for ease of transport and handling (Optional)

 

This is something I have been meaning to write about for quite some time now, in my travels across the capital I am constantly reminded bout these great ideas including sometimes at properties I see during my working hours! Can you imagine how much nicer our cities and living areas would look if a large majority were covered in Living Green Roofs?

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I have, in the past written an article on Eco Friendly buildings, here I am concentrating on Green Roofing at our homes or existing buildings, some people even create smaller ones on top of their bin sheds which are merely a few feet across and wide!
Although this is not a top priority right now for me (With all of my current projects ongoing), I will hereby make a pact that I will create at least one in my small garden on my rented property as well as one larger one (probably on top of my shed) on my Allotment (What is an Allotment?)

Examples of Green Roofs in a Modern Building Setting:

According to the London Wildlife Trust, London itself loses around ”Two and a Half Hyde Park’s” Sized worth of Green Urban Habitat and Forage ground due mainly to Hard Surface Landscaping in front and back gardens across the capital – one small way to revert and give back even just a little is to Create a Green Roof on part or even the whole of a building on the specified property.

Structures such as Bin Sheds, Wood Pile Roofs, Garden Sheds, Garages, Outdoor Rooms, Office Blocks, Houses and even part of your Conservatory can be adapted to a Green Roof Structure!

Some Other Examples:

Things to Consider before starting a Green Roof, and further comstruction information:

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All Information Below is obtained from The Green Roof Centre’s Website

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Extensive green roofs which are designed not to be trafficked and are therefore relatively undisturbed, can offer a very
good habitat for plants, birds and insects. There is evidence throughout Europe, that with the right design, green roofs
can encourage ground nesting birds such as lapwings, skylarks, oystercatchers and plovers.
Green roofs are able to create a “green corridor” through an urban environment helping the movement and dispersal
of wildlife.
– greenroofcode.co.uk
Other Links and Resources / How To:
Permaculture.co.uk Article 1

Late Summer / Early Autumn is the best time to start gathering the materials you need for your planned Hugel Bed / Mound, many Herbaceous plants which can be used in conjunction with the wood logs, branches and sticks are now ready to be chopped down and composted or used in another way. Autumn / Winter is the preferred time her in the UK to create your Hugelkultur mounds mainly due to the need for the wet season to soak the beds, the buried logs will soak up the winter rains for months until the upcoming growing season.

Two pieces of advice I can definitely lecture on about in this article to ensure a successful Hugel Project are;
1: Ensure Air Spaces inside the mound and
2: Add lots of Nitrogen rich Biomass internally to offset the nitrogen locking that the logs will create during decomposition

Air Spaces:
Although there are guaranteed to be air spaces between the logs and branches / sticks, I have found that rain and the settling down of the materials can cause these spaces to fill in, often causing or risking an anaerobic result – go explore your garden or any other garden you have access to (You may even be able to make a deal with a local gardening company – they could leave a bag of said such materials for you outside one of their customers properties so as long as you collect the bag and not leave unwanted contents at the site!) remember, you can always bargain that most companies have to pay to dump their waste at commercial specialist dumps, remind them that you are helping them reduce the need to do so, in most cases they will still have charged their customers to ”remove” the waste even though you took if off of their hands, the customer will inevitably still be charged for it being dumped.

There are many herbaceous plant species which have a hollow stem and need cutting down in Autumn, cut these stems into pieces which you will spread around and in between your logs at different levels to ensure small air cavities will remain. Cedums, Ornamental Globe Artichokes, Jerusalem Artichokes (Sunchokes), Young Bamboo (and old), some Hydrangea varieties and many more have hollow cavity stems which harden enough when dry to be used in this case.

Then there is dry hard leaf ”garden waste” which takes ages to decompose, these are leaves from shrubs and trees which are more on a glossy and hard / stiff texture than a soft / decidious and most likely in all cases, evergreen. Three options I have from the top of my head as examples are the leaves of ‘Magnolia Grandeflora’, The climber ‘Clematis Armandii’ , the Loquat ‘Eribotrya japonica’ Fruit Tree, Some Rhododendrons (look for the large leaved varieties) and Laurels. We have found that most of these leaves can take up to two years in an unturned / undisturbed compost pile to break down, they maintain their structure even when pressed down so they are perfect for maintaining air spaces / gaps internally within the Hugel Bed / Mound! Practically any glossy leaved plant / shrub / tree will do but the larger and dryer – the better!
In fact, a couple of these Tree / Shrub leaves will actualy curl up to form a cilyndrical tube shape with an internal hollow gap, when pressed these are strong and bounce back right away once released.

Nitrogen Rich Biomass:
Probably one of the best options are fresh grass clippings from your lawn mowing or that of a neighbour / friend. You can even clip your grass at your home twice a week for the last 3 or so weeks of Summer, keep these clippings aside in a breathable bag until ready to add into the Hugel Bed – if you obtain clippings over several weeks, you Will need to add additional fresh greens into the mix to compenate lost nitrogen.
Horse Manure is also a great option but I would suggest it be used more as an addition to fresh green waste rather than 100% of the nitrogen source
The not-so-popular option amongst people new to Permaculture, is human Urine, which has a good nitrogen content and is often used diluted 1 part to 10 in early season liquid feed for plants
If you plan on lets say December being your target month for getting your Hugel project started, I would advise Growing a patch of Broad or Field bean green manure from Late August / Early September – these will be ready for chopping down and adding into your bed around and amongst the logs as the fresh greens instead of grass clippings which won’t be available during that month anyway

Further Reading: Click Here for an article on the step-by-step making of a Hugelkultur Mound / Bed

As promised, since it is Blackberry season (at least here in the UK it is), here is my simple Blackberry Pie recipe with fresh pictures and berries from Today’s pie I made for the family.

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Remember, there are many uses for Blackberries (they can be frozen until needed for Smoothies, Jam etc.) freezing may be unsuitable for making pies though so this recipe has been added first so you can use freshly picked berries. Personally after having tried at least 5 cultivated berries from different locations for home growing (thornless Blackberries), I can say that all of them did not come close in taste and deliciousness to their Native Wild counterparts!

They may have been much larger in size and appearance, but it’s the taste that counts and Wild Blackberries are far better – I suspect that flavour was lost when selectively breeding a thornless blackberry variety, I could be wrong though.

Ingredients for a 20cm diameter pie dish:

  • 200 g ( 7 oz ) blackberries
  • 450 g (1 lb ) cooking apples
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 500 g ( 1lb ) shortcrust pastry
  • 75 g (2.5 oz) brown sugar (white can be a substitute here)
  • half teaspoon of cinnamon powder
  • one quarter teaspoon ground ginger

Recipe Instructions:

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Step 1: Core, peel and slice the Apples into wedge pieces, melt the butter In a pan, then add the Ginger Powder, Cinnamon, Apples and Sugar.
Mix in well and let sit on low heat for about 10 minutes.

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Step 2: Whilst waiting for that to cook through, lightly grease the pie dish and add the pie pastry on the bottom, be careful not to leave gaps by pressing in on the sides.

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Step 3: Slice the excess dough with any knife, my new favourite is a basic cutlery knife rather than a sharp cutting knife as usually recommended

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Step 4: Pour in the apples and their juice (Save some for tomorrow?) and pack gently

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Step 5: Pour the Blackberries over the apples

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Step 6: Place the remaining pie pastry over the top, slice the edges again with a knife then with a fork, crimp the edges as you would do on any pie recipe – finally, brush coat the top with the beaten egg.

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Step 7: Place in pre-heated oven at 220 Degrees Celsius for 10 minutes, then reduce to 180 Degrees Celsius for another 25 – 30 minutes. Remove from oven, place on a wire rack (I use my stove tops at the back) to cool down, if you like a warm / hot pie then serve after 10 minutes, if cold, place in your fridge so it can served after a couple of hours.

This was a fun recipe this time, I’m glad to have successfully tried it out today and will definitely always try to make a few of these when the season is right, the taste was a sweet tart mix.

I usually have quite a lot of left over pie pastry, you can always keep aside some apple pieces and blackberries to make mini hand molded Cornish Pasty shaped mini pies to ensure nothing goes to waste …

In the coming days, I will post the Blackberry Jam recipe so please do visit back soon

I have been meaning to post on the Hugelkultur method for around a year now and have finally gotten to doing it! I’ve gone through all of my own personal pictures to show you my own experience installing and now after one year, my experience with the system.

Traditionally, the Hugel system is a year on year progression whereby in the first year, you are meant to only grow shallow rooting crops such as lettuces, then follow on the second year and third with larger crops until you are growing tomatoes, peppers etc.

well, I Cheated! haha, I also got away with cheating so far with some amendments.
Ok, so a Hugelkultur bed is basically large cut tree logs placed in a small dug out trench (supposed to only be a few inches deep) which are topped with smaller logs, which are then topped with branches, then sticks, twigs, leaves and finally the layer of ‘sod’ which will then have a layer of compost or soil added over it to plant in. (sod is upturned chunks of grass and roots)

The purpose of this system is for the logs and the rest of the organic matter sitting on top of the logs to slowly decompose over a long period of time (up to ten years +) which provides a good, nutrient rich soil amendment or compost bed which you can grow edible plants / crops on.

In the above images, you see the main 7 layers, I finally had the last (8th) layer which was the rest of the Top Soil, I made the planting layer much thicker than traditional Hugel Beds so in order to be able to immediately grow the main crops I go for such as Tomatoes, Pumpkins etc. The way that I cheated includes maintaining hole cavities to ensure that air is able to penetrate deep down ensuring it remains Aerobic. My Hugel Bed was dug deeper than usual as I wanted the logs to penetrate deeper to condition the heavy clay subsoil and also counter the builders rubble that I came across after digging about half a space deep!
After 10 years my garden beds will be far far more natural and organic compared with my neighbours.

All of this was done and completed before Winter was over (2015) and a final layer of semi  mulched leaves was placed on top of the bed to encourage the worms to remain closer to the surface and condition the soil before spring. NOTE: In the photo’s you see a small three foot wide hole, due to time constraints I could only make the Hugel Bed in sections at a time, the entire bed was about 4 meters long by 80cm wide (13 ft x 2 ft 7 in) once completed.

Success? YES! I grew Pumpkins, Tomatoes, Peppers, Oca Tubers, Nasturtium and Courgettes (Zucchini) on this bed with ease!, I have also discovered a new trick to maintain breathing cavities which I will update Here in the days / weeks coming, to ensure the system stays aerobic.
The Permaculture genius Sepp Holtzer is said to be the pioneer of the Hugel Method, I have read his book: Sepp Holtzer’s Permaculture, I highly recommend this book even if you are not interested in Permaculture but have an interest in growing food on any scale!

Below I have a few images found online that will help in understanding the Hugelkultur method better, I have a very small piece of land and it is not mine, so I cannot simply cut out part of the lawn and follow the general method of Hugel Beds, hence why I stuck to the actual flower beds which restricted the size and working area.


At the end of the upcoming growing season I will definitely come back with a new post updating on what crops were grown and any observations whether positive or negative regarding my Hugel System … Don’t Be Scared To Experiment !